The Jaguars QB reflects on his best season as a pro, which included winning the AFC South and advancing to the Divisional round of the postseason.
Trevor Lawrence is hungry.
Not because it was breakfast time in Las Vegas when he conducted an interview ahead of the 2023 Pro Bowl. And not because he also spoke about his partnership with Tostitos to launch the brand’s first pop-up restaurant — Tost by Tostitos — in Arizona ahead of Super Bowl LVII.
“Obviously, [this season] was a great step for us, for myself, just really collectively as an organization for all of us,” the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback told Boardroom. “Obviously, we left some out there so you have that feeling, too, of watching the other teams play, especially last weekend and now in the Super Bowl, and you want to be out there. Getting that close, winning a playoff game, getting to the Divisional round, and then coming up a little short obviously is disappointing, but I think we proved that we belong and that our trajectory is going up.
“I think that’s exciting for all of us to know where we’re headed.”
Anyone who questioned Lawrence’s abilities and leadership during his rookie season or at the outset of his sophomore campaign soon began eating their words as the golden-haired gunslinger rallied the Jacksonville Jaguars from a 2-6 start to a 9-8 record, which included the organization’s first AFC South title and playoff berth since 2017.
The same critics and doubters who were licking their chops after Lawrence’s four first-half interceptions against the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC Wild Card game as the Jags trailed 27-7 at the break were again eating crow as Lawrence responded with three second-half TD passes to bring Jacksonville back from the dead to win 31-30 for his first-career playoff victory and the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff history.
Even though the Jaguars lost 27-20 in the divisional round to the Kansas City Chiefs, who face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Lawrence remains optimistic about his team’s progress.
“The future’s really bright,” he said. “All in all looking at it after having a couple of weeks to kind of take it in, it was a great year and we’re all really proud of what we were able to do. … We’re proud of that but we know that there’s more out there and we’re excited moving forward with what we’re going to be able to accomplish.”
Forging the Foundation
Lawrence, the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has had to adjust to three head coaches, three offensive coordinators, and three offenses in the past three seasons dating back to his final season at Clemson.
On Feb. 4, 2022, Jacksonville named Doug Pederson, who won Super Bowl XXXI with the Eagles, as its new head coach, but that wasn’t the only change. General manager Trent Baalke overhauled the roster, including giving Lawrence, who threw for 3,641 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 17 INTs as a rookie, some new weapons.
Receivers Christian Kirk (four years, $72 million), Zay Jones (three years, $24 million), and tight end Evan Engram (one year, $9 million) joined the likes of veteran wideout Marvin Jones Jr. and running back Travis Etienne, who missed his rookie season in 2021 with an injury.
Despite winning two of the first three games, Jacksonville then lost six of the next seven, including five straight, to enter its bye week at 3-7.
“We went through a little bit of some growing pains at the beginning of the season,” Lawrence said. “I think the first half we were just a little inconsistent offensively—I didn’t play my best ball. I think that it took some time for us to really build that chemistry but I think halfway through the season we really took off and started playing really well.”
The Jaguars won six of their final seven to clinch the AFC South title as Lawrence finished the regular season with 4,113 passing yards (ninth in the NFL), 25 touchdowns (10th), eight INTs, and a 66.3% completion rate.
Kirk led the team with 1,108 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, while Jones and Engram added 823 yards and five TDs and 766 yards and four scores, respectively. On the ground, Etienne had 1,125 rushing yards and tied Lawrence with a team-high five rushing TDs.
“Credit to our coaches and front office,” Lawrence said. “We brought in the right people so it’s easier to work with guys … none of those guys have any egos or anything like that. I think that makes it harder when you have guys who might have an ego and you kind of have to work around—it’s harder to communicate and get things done. All of those guys have been great. They just care about winning and I think that’s where we all think similarly. It’s not about who has the catches, the targets or whatever it is, the yards, it’s really about just winning.
“That’s kind of how our season went—everyone had their day [on] a different day. Evan had a couple of huge games. Christian had some huge games. Zay had a couple crazy games.”
Keeping the Core
According to ESPN, Jacksonville is $31.4 million over the projected salary cap for 2023 of $224.8 million as of this writing, but can save $13.15 million with the expected release of cornerback Shaquill Griffin. With 12 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the 2023 league year begins March 13, the Jags’ front office will have some serious decisions to make regarding who to re-sign with Engram, coming off a career year, and starting right tackle Jawaan Taylor being the top two priorities.
Following the season with the potential for more changes, Lawrence was asked by reporters whether or not he’d vouch for his teammates to get new deals. While some outlets reported the 23-year-old “plans to make [his] voice heard about the Jaguars’ offseason direction,” the quarterback clarified his involvement with keeping the team’s core, especially on offense, intact, which may also include receiver Calvin Ridley, who can apply to be reinstated on Feb. 15 from his indefinite suspension for betting on NFL games.
“I do have conversations with Trent [Baalke] or whoever it is about certain things and we have that respect for one another and they respect my opinion and they ask me certain things,” Lawrence said. “It’s not like I’m going in there demanding or asking, ‘Hey, we have to do this or that.’ Obviously, I think there’s a chain of command and you have to keep that so things don’t get confusing and blurry.
“They’ve done a great job so I have a lot of faith and trust in them. I think it’s all going to work out and we’re going to get the guys back we need back and I’m excited.”
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